Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Elections: Bonds and Parcel Tax

First, congratulations to our friends at the High School district. It looks like Measure A is poised to pass, which is great. The campaign was smart, and teh underlying concepts are a no-brainer. Well done!

Looking at LASD, we have been actively discussing putting a parcel tax on the ballot. Last night we had the opportunity to direct staff to take some important steps to be ready for a November election. However, we decided not to do this. I think it was a good idea for a few reasons:

1) We're not ready. We don't have the same level of organization in place that we have typically had in previous campaigns at a point 5 months prior to the actual election.

2. November will be a noisy ballot. The Gubanatorial race and the US Senate race promise to be very intense fights, with candidates spending huge sums of money to buy media time. You'll see campagin ads at every turn. We would need to break through that nosie and have people pay attention to our issue, and be able to get them to listen enough to influence them to vote in favor of the tax. That would take an incredible amount of work.

3. We owe the public a better message. As a Board, we've committed ourselves to building a strategic plan. Having that plan in place will help shape a better message to take to the voters. It's not enough to say "vote for our tax so we don't close the libraries and lay off more teachers". It is far more compelling to present the voters with a vision, of how we want to IMPROVE, and what the incremental money would fund. During this budget cycle, we've also heard loud and claer from the community that they want our financial house in order. There are many components to that, including things like negotiating health care costs with our employees. Hopefully the extra time we're taking will give us a chance to have a compelling story to tell about how the teachers and staff are part of the long term solution.

We're still discussing when the actual ballot might occur. Most of that discussion centers around a vote in the spring of next year (March or May). If we do that, the funds would be available for the 2011-12 school year, the same as if we'd been on the Nov 2010 ballot.

I'd very much like to hear from folks on this topic. I'm particularly interested in what you think is critical for our strategic plan. That will form the backbone of the not just the parcel tax, but of how we try to guide the district for many years to come.

1 comment:

  1. I think that the district often rests on its laurels: our great APIs, people moving here for our programs, etc. I think this leads to a lot of thinking about how we can best preserve what we have today and discourages thinking about change, either in a radical or a gradual manner.
    Change is always frightening, but it is not always bad. I for one would love to see some fairly radical changes to our district that I think could very positively impact our students...
    Some of the changes would include: A longer school day... US students are in school an hour or more shorter than all of our strongest international counterparts. There are many studies that show a significantly longer day (think 8am to 5pm) can have a tremendous impact on low performing students, struggling in less than perfect home situations, usually because if nothing else the students suddenly have stability and three solid meals in their lives. There are fewer studies that show however, that there is some benefit to a gradual increase of the day (think adding an extra hour), because the sum total of that added time throughout a student's entire education does have an impact, particularly if it is used in a constructive manner. I invite you to look at the best practices discovered during a Mass longer day exploratory program: http://www.timeandlearning.org/Mass%202020%20Progress%20Report.pdf
    The other major change would be introducing a foreign language to all students starting at kindergarten. Multiple studies have shown that learning a foreign language is better at a younger age for a variety of reasons: it helps form different brain connections that affect language development and processing later on, it makes better computer programmers, it helps create a more global sense of one's place in the world, etc. Also it is a practice almost uniformly used to teach English or another secondary language outside of the United States.
    Lastly, and less radical I would love to see art, music, PE, etc restored to be daily activities of our students.
    I know my thoughts are ambitious and most likely expensive, but I think you aim high and one never knows what kind of grants/funding sources that may present themselves as avenues to get us all the way there, or at the very least, part of the way.


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